Become A True "Renaissance [Wo]Man"

As I discussed last week, this past weekend was the first ever TudorCon at which myself and a small cast performed a concert of music from The King’s Legacy as the con’s Saturday night entertainment.

So silly. So fun. And wonderfully affirming!

I met a lovely group of smart, giving, caring individuals who all gathered together to share their love of this time period and its stories. And even more than that, they gathered together to support the research, knowledge, and creations of the speakers and their fellow attendees.

After the concert, a small group of people was standing around speaking with some of the performers, and they were asking where they would be able to see the show next.

Now, as you know dear readers, this depends entirely on when and where there is an interest to produce the show, as well as having the money behind it to make it happen. And this was explained to the group.

But then one of the women said: “You should start a Patreon page! I would definitely give, and I bet many other people would as well!

And what a delightfully canny idea that was!

Read more

It's TudorCon Time!

Yes folks, you heard (read?) that right! TudorCon.

The world’s first ever TudorCon, in fact.

And The King’s Legacy has been booked to provide the Saturday night entertainment at the con’s inaugural year with a concert of music from the show!

“So, what is this thing?”

“What are you doing there?”

“And why should I care?”

I love your propensity for questions, dear reader!

Read more

There Must Be More

“…than this Provincial life!”

Sorry, I just needed to have my Belle moment. That’s totally not what this post is about. I just adore that score.

Onward!

Over the past week I saw 3 shows - 2 Broadway and 1 Off-Broadway.

These shows were (in the order I saw them):

  • Scotland, PA

  • The Inheritance Part 1

  • Tootsie

Now, regardless of how I felt about each of these shows, or how much I did or did not enjoy them individually, they all had something in common per my experience in watching them.

At one point (at least) in every one of these shows I had the thought: “…But must we? This again? Isn’t there more out there? There must be more.

Allow me to explain.

Read more

You're Allowed to Call "Hold"

For those of you who are not aware, in the theatre we have this thing where you’re allowed to call “hold.”

What does that mean…?”

Excellent question!

During the tech process of a show, it is common practice that anyone in the room is allowed to call “hold!” and stop the rehearsal process. This could be due to a safety concern, a missing element (prop, costume, light, etc), something that went wrong onstage or backstage, a person missing an entrance, needing to fix a technical moment, a mis-fired cue…or for so many more reasons.

Basically, you can call “hold” for anything major that goes wrong because everything is a priority.

I want to repeat this.

Anyone in the room is allowed to call “hold” because everything is a priority. And not a single person in that room will (rightly) judge you for it.

Okay. So what?

Read more

Take It To The Chorus

What is a chorus? And for that matter, what is a verse?

These seem like fairly general music terms that we all know, but do we?

I’m pretty sure that most people could at least tell you that they’ve heard of the terms chorus, verse, and bridge before, and could most likely give you a general definition.

Well, at least as far as pop music goes.

But in musical theatre, these things have a slightly different meaning. And it has dawned on me slowly over the past several years that there are many creatives in the industry (directors, performers, etc., and yes, some writers) who are not exactly sure what these terms mean when applied to musical theatre music.

So, what do they mean?

Read more

Hold Your Breath. Make A Wish. Count To Three.

You know how you sometimes have this dream - it could be a nighttime thing, or a daydream, or some lofty ethereal goal - but it’s something you just can’t quite imagine. It’s there and you can almost picture it, but only ever just almost.

I’ve had so many of these dreams that I lost count long ago. But I think it’s something that’s just in the DNA of artists and creative types.

Right?

Well, beginning sometime around the fall of 2016 I had this dream (the goal kind) of what it would be like, feel like, look like, sound like, etc to see The King’s Legacy - which had finally found the correct structure - come to life in a full production.

It simultaneously felt easily attainable and yet a thousand years off. I truly could almost see it happening. But it wasn’t happening - not yet anyway. So all I could do was just keep imagining and letting various scenarios pass through my head.

But I will tell you that, when it came down to the reality, it was nothing like I had imagined.

It was so much better.

Read more

6 Years Later...

  • October 26th, 2012 - I completed the very first outline for the first version of The King’s Legacy.

  • December 6th, 2012 - There existed a first draft of a script, including a large portion of lyrics.

  • March 14th, 2013 - I had a fully realized first draft with all scenes, music, and lyrics completed.

And so it all began.

It’s been a long long road to the first ever full production of The King’s Legacy, and what a strange, magical, frustrating, and fantastical journey it has been. It’s had its peaks and valleys, but it has brought us to where we are now: Less than one day away from the first rehearsal for the premiere production. (!!!)

So how did it all start? Where did the show come from? And how did it get to where it is today?

As per usual, I’m thrilled you asked!

Read more

*And* I Have To...What?

We often ask a lot of our performers - and directors, designers, and everyone else of course as well, but this post is performer-focused.

We especially ask a lot of our performers in a summer stock rehearsal setting.

But sometimes we ask for even a little more.

Perhaps you have a special skill that the director would like to include in a show. For example: you play an instrument, you tumble, you’re a gymnast, you can juggle, you can do impersonations…or a thousand other possible talents.

And then there are shows that ask for even more than a little more, and to do it all in 8 days.

And that, my friends, is the zany, fast-paced romp that is Murder For Two at Bristol Valley Theater!

Read more

Love Is Alive And Well On Broadway

This past Monday night I was honored and overjoyed to attend the 4th annual Arts For Autism Broadway benefit concert!

For those of you who have not yet heard about this event, please allow me to tell you about the magic that is late June evening each year.

Read more

Just The Perfect Blendship

One of the absolute best parts of the theater that I feel people don’t talk about enough is the people - the community.

Sure, every June as we all get ready to sit down together in NYC and across the country to watch the Tony Awards, or are preparing for one of the major benefits like Broadway Bares, or even just during Pride Month in general, theatrical and non-theatrical publications will talk briefly about how Broadway is a community. And it is! It’s a fantastic community with the same pros and cons that any community might have.

But only “Broadway” is discussed as being the community itself.

And as soon as you call something the “Broadway” community, there is an innate elitism to that term - whether geographically or in terms of production budget - which gets thrown into everyone’s minds.

But what is this Broadway community? Is it just the thousands of people actively working in NYC’s largest theatrical houses? Just those who contribute to the city’s multi-billion dollar industry?

I don’t think so, no.

I think the Broadway community is far larger than that. Personally, I would consider the Broadway community to include anyone and everyone working in theatre across the entire country. I would even consider the Broadway community to include the multitude of theatre lovers - those who don’t necessarily work in the industry, but participate through other means by supporting those who do, or even just attending all productions they can and keeping tabs on what’s happening in the industry.

In my opinion, it is crucial to consider everyone involved in the theatre everywhere as part of the Broadway community.

“But why?”

Allow me to explain!

Read more

From The Ground Up

The term “Devised Theatre” tends to elicit strong reactions from people - whether that be eyes lighting up in excitement, a shudder in remembrance of the ghosts of devised theatre past, or questioning looks from those who aren’t exactly sure what it means.

Essentially, devised theatre is a theatrical piece including any performance elements (dance, music, lights, speech, sound, movement, etc.) that was built from the ground up by an ensemble of people without a physical, linear-plot script.

Often these types of piece are made to be experimental and off-the-beaten-path, and audiences aren’t necessarily expected to feel a sense of familiarity in experiencing the performance.

But then, other times that’s exactly what they are meant to feel. And that’s where it gets super tricky.

Tonight is the official opening night of So Happy Together: The Music of the Swingin’ 60’s at Bristol Valley Theater - for which I am the Musical Director - and that’s precisely what this show was built to be: a devised musical revue show meant to be a delightful, familiar, and joy-sparking experience for the audience.

And folks…I think we did it?!?!

But how?

Read more

Summertime, And The Livin' Is Easy...

Well, folks. For me, summer has now officially arrived!

Hooray!

I am now settled into Naples, NY for a three-show contract that will take most of my summer between June 1st-September 1st! (There will also be a little vacation and a week-long teaching contract thrown in the middle there as well!) And it’s all going to be super fun and not crazy or exhausting at all!

…Right?

Well, not quite. It’s all extremely exciting, but it will be incredibly busy as well!

So let me tell you a little about the exciting parts while I have your attention! :-D

Read more

Stress? Psh! Injury...? Why Would You Even Say That?!

Let’s have a brief conversation - one-sided, of course, since this is a blog post :-) - about stress and physical injury in the theatre.

This is a topic that most artists - performers in particular - avoid, and for a few reasons:

  1. Injury is scary and no one wants to think about it.

  2. Everyone has stress and no one wants to look like the “complainer.”

  3. Injury has become stigmatized as something shameful.

  4. We wear our stress, and ability to handle it, as a badge of honor.

There are others as well, but I generally see these as the biggest reasons this topic is avoided. People don’t want to talk about these things, but if we don’t talk about them they become these big scary monsters that we hope we won’t have to endure.

But we do.

Stress and injury will affect everyone at some point, so let’s just talk about it.

Read more

The Rumor, The Legend, The Mystery

Most people - and writers in particular - are drawn to stories about larger-than-life people, figures, and times. Moments and personalities that disrupted the status quo and changed the course of history. The extraordinary.

These are the stories that live on, passed down through facts and records (contemporary and non), as well as rumor, gossip, and anecdotes that may or may not include a kernel of truth.

The people at the center of these stories are some of the most compelling, and they have attracted the attention of people throughout generations.

And writers love them.

Historians and creative writers alike love to tackle these gigantic stories filled with change and drama, as well as mystery and intrigue, and put their own spins on them. But what they never tell you is just how difficult these people and stories are to write.

I too have fallen victim to this type of alluring narrative and - despite this post’s title - I am not speaking about the great historical mystery of Anastasia as adapted by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

I’m talking about one of Western history’s most debated women from one of English history’s most infamous time periods:

Anne Boleyn.

Read more

It's Critical!

Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of people - friends and strangers alike - have been saying something very similar to me as a I talk about productions, performances, or people that I’ve recently seen onstage.

As I’m giving my solicited opinion and actively formulating my thoughts, people keep stopping me to say things like:

  • You’re choosing your words very carefully.

  • You can just say what you mean to me.

  • You’re trying to be so [nice/PC/positive].

This got me thinking about how we, as artists and audience alike, deal with the art of criticism/critique/opinion. I’ll also admit that I recently listened to two interviews with high-profile theatre critics - both of which bothered me in very different and specific ways that I won’t go into here - so this topic hasn’t been far from my mind.

And after last week’s blog post, which was a semi-review of Hadestown, I got a lot of comments from people online and in person that basically said “Thank you for focusing on the good.”

But isn’t this how we should be talking about art?

All of those things above that people have said to me made me react the same way:

No no no, I am saying what I mean, which is why I’m choosing my words so carefully.” And as for positivity, I think that is important to bear in mind as we critique - why focus on only the negative?

So, what is the best way to give theatrical criticism?

Read more

"It's An Old Song" Yet Somehow New

Last night I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Hadestown on Broadway, and there is so much I would like to say about the show and the experience.

Now, when I first began this blog I had promised that one of the things I would occasionally write is theatre reviews. However, I am not a reviewer or critic (well, everyone is a critic, aren’t they?) and I personally do not feel that the world needs another small-time reviewer to muddy the opinionated waters.

So what I am going to do is occasionally write about a show or theatrical experience that moved me, and then try to speak to why. What is it about this show? What in particular was enjoyable or exciting? What was new and/or different?

***This does mean there may be mild Hadestown spoilers today - but since I am including no pictures, video, or music, how spoiled could the experience really be? (Another question for another day?) Plus - well - the Orpheus story has also been around for a couple millennia, sooo… ;-)

Read more

Submit To Me!

All professions are riddled with systemic flaws that everyone knows about, and yet very little is done to fix them. For playwrights and musical theatre writers the systemic flaw that I hear complained about the most is the submissions process.

Now, these complaints are completely justified. The problem with the system is…well, there isn’t one.

In the professional theatre world - at least where play and musical submissions are concerned - it’s a total free-for-all. (and not the enjoyable kind, like a lovely game of Super Smash Bros. on the good ole Nintendo 64! …no? just me being a video game dinosaur? oh coo, cool…)

And like most problems, this one gets completely ignored and nothing is really done to change it. Well, I won’t say completely ignored. Writers talk about this all the time - how messy, inconsistent, biased, and often expensive the submission process can be (yes, many come with attached fees). But the people who have the power to do something about it (aka the Theaters and the theatrical community members who receive submissions) either don’t want to change the way they do things, don’t want to engage in the discussion, don’t have the time, or aren’t aware that there is a better way to go about all of this.

And there is a better way, isn’t there?

Read more

Hole-y Plots, Batman!

Over the course of my musical direction this past year I have had the pleasure of working on shows that I know well, as well as a couple that I didn’t. But one thing is for certain - you never truly know a show well until you have worked on it.

And once you have worked on a show, it becomes ingrained in you somehow. A piece of your life. A window into a specific period of time or a specific mindset. Perhaps it changed you somehow. Perhaps it was just a great time. Or perhaps it was a less positive experience. And all of this is wonderful and valid, but it’s also not what I’m going to be focusing on today.

Today I come bearing a question. At the end of the day what is more important: an airtight plot, or to move the audience?

Several of the musicals I have worked on in my life have brought me to ask this question, but I have been thinking about this yet again this year. Of the three shows I MDed this school year, 2 of them had “hole-y plots,” yet both seemed to give some sort of emotional satisfaction to the audience. And the other was absolutely airtight in plot, but was ultimately more entertaining than moving.

So which is more important? And can we have both?

Read more

Don't Bring Around A Cloud...

…to rain on my paraaaaaaaade! (sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

For those of you who read last week’s blog post - welcome to Part 2! For those of you who didn’t, check out the first part of the post here: As We Stumble Along…

Last week’s post focused on the more negative aspects of the risk-taking and the learning processes in this business. The journey is often imperfect and difficult and involves a great deal of trial-and-error, and that’s totally okay. But what I skipped over were all of the positive steps and outcomes that can result from this journey.

Every single success or accomplishment that is presently in my life can be traced back to either a risk I took, or a moment where I enhanced my personal education through non-traditional (aka classroom) means. And I am not unique in this regard.

So, the question becomes - how? Well, there are many routes, but I’ll tell you about some of mine.

Read more

As We Stumble Along...

This week I had the pleasure of being part of the first NYC externship for my Alma Mater’s brand new, and now fully developed, Musical Theater Program. I had the chance to work with some lovely SUNY Geneseo Juniors and Seniors in a new musical theatre workshop - an entirely new experience for all of them - and attended the first ever Senior Showcase. The talent was wonderful, the interactions were lovely, and the entire experience got me thinking…a dangerous pastime, I know.

As a part of the workshop I had to essentially explain to the students who I am, what I do, how that’s relevant to Geneseo, and how I got to where I am. And you know what? That was much more difficult than I expected.

At this moment in my career, these are the titles that I can, and generally do, give myself:

Composer-Lyricist/Librettist (technically 3 titles?)

Performer (Musical and non-Musical Theatre)

Musical Director

Vocal Coach

Accompanist (I do this less often)

Arranger/Orchestrator (though mostly my own material these days)

One of the Geneseo students said “You do so much!” and I guess that’s true. But I think the better question is, how the heck did I learn to do all of these things?

Read more